This is a glorious
production from Vienna of Die Fledermaus,
the acknowledged ‘queen of operettas’.
It is sumptuously staged and costumed
in the finery of the fin de siècle
style; and directed by Otto Schenk.
Schenk is a popular Viennese actor,
director, and theatre supreme who, himself,
had played Frosch 29 times before taking
the reins on New Year’s Eve 1979. The
excellence of this performance, exactly
one year later, is boosted by the high-spiritedness
of the New Year celebrations epitomised
by the Act II ball scene (see cover
picture above) that has the girls and
boys of the Ballett der Wiener Staatsoper
letting their hair down and kicking
up their heels to Johann Strauss’s Thunder
and Lightning Polka.
Guschlbauer’s vivacious direction is
felt right from the word go. The Overture
crackles with vitality and playful mischievousness.
Lucia Popp is a street-wise and impish
Rosalinde determined to teach her erring
husband a lesson. Her heart-felt and
stirring rendering of the Act II ‘Csárdás’
impresses strongly and she is conspiratorially
cheeky in those amusing Act I trios,
first with her husband and Adele in
which sorrow at the prospect of his
leaving is countered by the prospect
of ‘while the mouse is away ... ’, then
when Rosalinde and her over-amorous,
over-inebriated admirer, Alfred (Josef
Hopferweiser splendidly sloshed) have
to explain themselves to the bewildered
and suspicious Frank the prison governor.
As Rosalinde’s faithless husband, Count
von Eisenstein, Bernard Wenkel is raffish
but also buffoonish.and sings colourfully.
Brigitte Fassbaender is a celebrated
Prince Orlofsky, often regarded without
peer in the role - a brilliant male
impersonation. His (her) drinking songs
are heady, full of hedonistic joie
de vivre. But it is Edita Gruberova
as Adele who really steals the show,
a very cheeky maid; her coquettish Act
II aria, when she turns up at Prince
Orlofsky’s ball in her mistress’s finery
and haughtily disdains Eisenstein’s
idea that she looks like his maid, draws
thunderous applause from the audience.
A sparkling performance
from a star cast; sumptuously staged
and costumed. A real feast for eye and